Illawarra Coal produces premium quality, hard coking coal (used in the production of steel) and some energy coal; The Company operates the award-winning WestVAMP, a world-first power plant driven by mine air gas; and two coal preparation plants - one at West Cliff and the other, the Dendrobium preparation plant, at Port Kembla, where its regional office is also situated. The company also manage the Port Kembla Coal Terminal on behalf of a consortium of partners (Illawarra Coal, Xstrata Coal, Peabody, Tahmoor Coal and Centennial Coal) and lease the terminal from the New South Wales Government.
Based in Wollongong and operating in the Illawarra and Wollondilly regions south of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, Illawarra Coal operates three high-volume underground longwall mines ?Appin, West Cliff and Dendrobium.
Geology and Mineralization
Illawarra Coal mines from two of the region's nine coal seams, known as Wongawilli and Bulli, at depths ranging from 180m to 550m, with seam thicknesses between 2.1m and 3.4m in strong sandstone and shale strata.
Appin's coal is mined from the Bulli Seam at depths of up to 550 metres. Coal extracted from this seam is premium quality hard coking coal and is used for coke making by the Australian steel industry, and is also exported to customers around the world.
Longwall mining was introduced at Appin in 1969. During the longwall mining process mechanized shearers are used to cut and remove the coal at the face of the mine. After the coal is removed, it drops onto a chain conveyor, which moves it to a second conveyor that transports the coal to the surface. Hydraulic-powered roof supports hold up the roof as the extraction process proceeds. Following mining most of the longwall panel is allowed to collapse behind the roof supports, forming a goaf.
The mine is serviced by two vertical ventilation shafts and two inclined tunnels or drifts. The shafts are 540 metres deep and the drifts are about 1.8 kilometres long.
The bigger drift (2.5 metres x 3.5 metres) uses a largely automatic winder to transport people and materials by train. The smaller drift (2.3 metres x 2.6 metres) contains the conveyor belt that brings all the coal to the surface.
The mine operates on a continuous basis, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
The mining operations are located immediately adjacent to Mt Kembla, approximately 8km west of Wollongong, NSW. Dendrobium is approved to produce up to 5.2 million tonnes of coking coal per annum with an expected mine life in excess of 20 years.
Dendrobium Mine operates in the No. 3 Seam (Wongawilli Seam) of the Southern Coal Field. Coal from the Wongawilli seam is an essential component of 'Illawarra Blend' premium coking coal, which is known for its specific steel-making qualities.
Opened in 1976 the West Cliff Mine is a high-volume longwall mine extracting coal from the Bulli Seam using one longwall and five continuous miners.
During the mining process mechanized shearers are used to cut and remove the coal at the face of the mine. After the coal is removed, it drops onto a chain conveyor, which moves it to a second conveyor that transports the coal to the surface. Hydraulic-powered roof supports hold up the roof as the extraction process proceeds. Following mining most of the longwall panel is allowed to collapse behind the roof supports, forming a goaf.
Illawarra Coal washes and blends its coal at coal preparation plants at West Cliff and the Dendrobium Washery at Port Kembla.
Washery yields of up to 90 per cent are achieved for coking coal.
Energy coal yields up to 20 per cent. The washeries at West Cliff Colliery and Dendrobium use a combination of drums, jigs, cyclones, and flotation to produce clean coal.
The West Cliff colliery washery has a capacity of 1050 tonnes per hour and also has storage areas for clean and raw coal. The Dendrobium washery has a capacity of 535 tonnes per hour, as well as large storage areas for clean and raw coals.
Environment and Community
The BHP Billiton Charter values state that the Company has an overriding commitment of health, safety, environmental responsibility and sustainable development. Safety is therefore recognised as the responsibility of every person in the Company's operations.
The safety of employees, contractors and the communities in which Illawarra Coal operates is an integral part of its business. Safety risks are managed across all sites through risk-based HSEC Management Standards.
As well, Illawarra Coal works with the community to support community projects, provide information about its operations and future plans, listens to community concerns and addresses those concerns by trying to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.